sleep...why did you leave me?

I just want to have a good nights’ sleep!

Anyone else feel this way?!?! I’m over 10 years into post-menopause and I yearn for some good, consistent sleep. Maybe it will never truly come back like those high school and college years where nothing kept me from a good nights’ sleep…it just happened!

Let me first let you know that sleep isn’t ALL about menopause. Finally, by this time in our lives, we are profoundly busy and life seems to be more complicated. Between career, raising children, caring for aging parents, volunteering in a myriad of ways, layers of responsibility and stress; sleep issues for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s would be likely even without a major biological change unfolding over a period of years. But, the major biological transition leading up to being post-menopausal is definitely a HUGE factor in how well we sleep.

Menopause is one part of a lifelong shift in our hormone balance – most significantly the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones work together to regulate our reproductive function and menstrual cycle.  Let me share a few ‘clif’ notes with you on each of these.

Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in women that plays the most significant role in regulating our reproductive function and monthly menstrual cycle. In addition, estrogen supports our cardiovascular health, cognitive performance and mood, strong bones and healthy weight management. But the biggie….estrogen also promotes healthy sleep as it helps the body use serotonin and other neurochemicals that assist sleep. Estrogen levels fluctuate significantly throughout the menopausal transition until they fall to low levels where they remain for good. UGH…I see me written all over this!

With low estrogen comes anxiety and low mood, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, physical pain including headache and migraine, weight gain, and surprise….disrupted sleep and/or insomnia. Sorry for the grim news my friends.

Let’s move on to progesterone which works to balance the effects of estrogen and prepare a woman’s body for pregnancy with each monthly cycle as well as it helps regulate mood, protect against anxiety and depression along with promoting the growth of new bone tissue. High levels of progesterone promote a sense of calm, relaxation and facilitating sleep. Low levels, you already guessed it; bring about anxiety and restlessness, trouble sleeping, including the tendency to wake frequently during the night.

You already have guessed it haven’t you…our body STOPS producing progesterone once we enter menopause.

We often don’t think about testosterone’s importance in our health. For women, testosterone plays an important part in helping our body produce estrogen. And, we all know that it boosts sexual desire as well as energy levels and contributes to greater muscle and bone mass. This hormone we will continue to produce throughout our life, but the levels decline as we age.

All together as these hormones fluctuate and decline as we age, sleep often becomes increasingly disrupted. By the time we reach perimenopause, many of us are routinely having a hard time falling asleep and sleeping soundly throughout the night.

So, is there a solution to all of this? Well, I’m not a medical professional but have researched various websites on the subject of menopause and sleep to come up with my own conclusion that it’s an individual thing that takes time and trying out what works best for you. Trust me….I’m still doing that! But, please indulge this shameless plug, I do know that with wearing an alvöru tank top and sleeping on the Outlast® bedding products, my sleep has improved. Now, it’s a matter of working through the external factors that I can control to improve my sleep even more.

A few additional solutions:

  • Eat healthy. Avoid large meals, especially before bedtime. Maintain a regular, normal weight. Some foods that are spicy or acidic may trigger hot flashes. Try foods rich in soy as they might minimize hot flashes. 
  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol, especially before bedtime. 
  • Dress in lightweight clothes to improve sleep efficiency. Avoid heavy, insulating blankets and consider using a fan or air conditioning to cool the air and increase circulation. 
  • Reduce stress and worry as much as possible. Try relaxation techniques, massage and exercise. Talk to a behavioral health professional if you are depressed, anxious or having problems.

See more in my blog ‘tips for a better nights sleep’.

**Compiled from various websites – sleepfoundation.org, thesleepdoctor.com, webmd.com, and sleep.com.

The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.

 

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